Episode #268 – Pet Ownership Trends Driving the Animal Health Industry and Veterinary Profession

The Vet Recruiter®
The Vet Recruiter®
Episode #268 - Pet Ownership Trends Driving the Animal Health Industry and Veterinary Profession
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Joel: Welcome to “The Animal Health and Veterinary Employment Insider,” brought to you by The VET Recruiter. In this podcast, Animal Health executive recruiter and Veterinary recruiter Stacy Pursell of The VET Recruiter provides insight and practical advice for both employers and job seekers in the Animal Health and Veterinary industries. The VET Recruiter’s focus is to solve talent-centric problems for the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession. The VET Recruiter’s mission is to help Animal Health and Veterinary companies hire top talent, while helping Animal Health and Veterinary professionals attain career-enhancing opportunities that increase their quality of life.

Today, we will be talking about the Pet industry trends that are driving the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession. Hello, Stacy, and thank you for joining us today.

Stacy: Hello, Joel. As always, I am glad to be here with you today.

Joel: Stacy, what exactly will we be discussing today?

Stacy: We are going to discuss exactly what the title of today’s podcast episode suggests. We are going to talk about Pet industry trends, and specifically, we’re going to address the results of a recent Consumer Affairs survey. As part of that survey, Consumer Affairs spoke to 1,000 pet owners, almost half of which were Millennials between the ages of 27 and 42.

Joel: Was the survey focused on Millennials specifically?

Stacy: Yes and no. The survey was designed to get an overview of what is happening in the Pet industry, but also to generate results that were specific to the Millennial Generation. And the reason for that is simple. According to the American Pet Products Association’s National Pet Owners Survey, Millennials are an important age group for two reasons. First, they make up the biggest share of pet owners in the United States, and two, they spend more money on their pets than any other age group.

Joel: Those are two good reasons!

Stacy: They are, for sure. So, it makes sense to focus on that generation and that age group for this survey.

Joel: So where would you like to start Stacy?

Stacy: I would like to start with the fact that pets are extraordinarily important in the lives of their owners. This is a critical reality for those people who are working in the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession. That is because people love their pets and are willing to spend money on them in terms of goods and services. This includes, of course, Veterinary services.

And how much owners love their pets was part of the Consumer Affairs survey.

Joel: Tell us more about that Stacy.

Stacy: According to the results of the survey, 81% of Millennials admitted that they love their pet more than certain members of their family.

Joel: That seems like a high percentage!

Stacy: It is a high percentage, but it was not unique to the Millennial Generation. That is because of 76% of Generation X admitted the same thing, as did 77% of Baby Boomers.

Joel: I knew that people love their pets, but these are interesting statistics. Did the survey identify which family members survey participants loved less than their pets?

Stacy: Believe it or not, it did! And the winner, so to speak, was the person’s sibling at 57%. The part that surprised me was that “Mother” and “Father” were #2 and #3 on the list, respectively, at 50% and 41%.

Joel: People either really love their pets or they really do NOT love some of the members of their immediate family.

Stacy: It appears as though both is the case. And Joel, can you guess the percentage of Millennials that would rather have a pet than a child?

Joel: Mmmm, that’s tough. I would say . . . 30%?

Stacy: Would you believe the answer is 58%?

Joel: You are kidding! That’s close to twice as many as my guess.

Stacy: Yes, and the percentage was 48% for Generation X, so that generation was not far behind in the rankings.

The most important part of the survey, though, was the section about how much money owners are willing to spend on their pets.

Joel: Because the more they spend, the better it is for the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession.

Stacy: Yes, that is the case to a large degree, and Veterinary bills are a big factor. One of the questions that they survey asked was, “How confident are you that you could afford life-saving treatment for your pet in the next month?” Among Millennials, the results were:

  • “Extremely” confident at 20%
  • “Very” confident at 40%
  • “Moderately” confident at 24%
  • “Slightly” confident at 13%
  • And “Not at all” at 4%

Joel: It seems as though Millennials are rather confident about their ability to pay for life-saving treatment.

Stacy: Yes, it does, and considering how many of them love their pet more than they love their mother, father, or one of their siblings, it also seems as though they would be willing to spend that money.

However, the survey also asked participants what they would do if they could not immediately afford life-saving treatment for their pet.

Joel: How did Millennials answer that question?

Stacy: Once again, the results were interesting, and survey participants were allowed to choose more than one answer.

  • Forty-nine percent chose “Get a part-time second job.”
  • Forty-six percent chose “Start a GoFundMe page.”
  • Forty-three percent chose “Sell a TV set.”
  • Forty-one percent chose “Sell a laptop computer.”
  • Twenty-nine percent chose “Sell jewelry.”
  • Twenty-six percent chose “Sell most prized possession.”
  • And 25% chose “Sell their car.”

Joel: Really, a quarter of Millennials said they would sell their car to provide life-saving treatment for their pet?

Stacy: Yes, that is what they said.

Joel: Did the survey ask participants about how much they would be willing to spend on their pets?

Stacy: That is a great question, and yes, they survey did touch upon that point. The most that Millennials indicated they would be willing to spend on their pets’ health for live saving treatment within the next month was $774 on average. Keep in mind that number is an average. Some were willing to spend more than $774, and some were willing to spend less.

However, the survey also asked participants what they budgeted for their pet each month. Millennials said they budgeted $216 per month, on average, while Generation X budgets $161 per month. But the survey asked how much they spent, as well. Millennials spend $198 of the $216 that they budget, while the members of Generation X spend $141 out of $161.

Joel: So, Millennials spend more money on their pets than Generation X does?

Stacy: Yes, in fact, Millennials currently spend more money on their pets than any other generation. As I just mentioned, they spend an average of $198 per month on their pets or pets, which translates to $2,376 per year. That is 60% more than the average American dog owner.

Joel: Wow! Really? That definitely says something about how much Millennials value their pets.

Stacy: It does. When they say that they love their pets, they definitely back up their words with actions.

I would like to examine one more part of the survey that has a bearing on how much people value their pets.

Joel: Which part is that?

Stacy: The survey asked people whether or not they considered their pets when deciding where to live and which house to buy.

Joel: I am going to take a wild guess and say that the majority of people said that they do consider their pets in those situations. Am I right?

Stacy: Yes, you are right, and the results were not even close. There was a large majority, and that was consistent across all of the generations!

Joel: All of them? Not just the Millennials?

Stacy: That is right. In fact, Generation Z was the generation most likely to consider the pets, to the tune of 89%. Millennials were in second place at 86% and Generation X and the Baby Boomers were both 75%.

There were some other statistics from the survey that were eye opening.  For instance, more Millennials would prefer a home with a yard than a newly renovated kitchen, 39% to 22%. Not only that, but more Millennials would choose to live in a pet-friendly city than live close to their friends, 37% to 31%.

Joel: Wow, this has been a lot of good information. How does this all fit in with what we have been discussing on the podcast the last several weeks and even months?

Stacy: That is a great question, and the answer is an important one in terms of the Animal Health industry and the Veterinary profession. That’s because we are dealing with what is called the “consumer mindset.”

Pet owners, of course, are consumers for their pets in the same way that parents are consumers for their children.

Joel: I have heard that pet owners are now sometimes called “pet parents.” Is that the case?

Stacy: Yes, that is true! “Pet parents” is a phrase that has been coined and been used more frequently during the past few years to describe pet owners. It is especially the case with pet owners who do not have children or who do not plan to have children in the future.

Joel: So essentially, their pets have become their children.

Stacy: Yes, that would be a true statement. And the very fact that this phrase was created and taken hold in society at large illustrates how much importance people have attached to their pets. They are so important that they treat their pets almost like they treat their children.

Joel: And that translates to how they feed their pets and how they take care of their health.

Stacy: Exactly, and that is how all of this information affects the Animal Health industry and the Veterinary profession. And we should really throw in the Pet industry in the mix, too, because that industry is affected as well. After all, pet owners spend a tremendous amount of money on pet food during the course of the year. And not just regular pet food, either, but specialty pet food, as well.

Joel: Stacy, would it be safe to say that the results of this survey show why there has been such a demand for Veterinary products and services during the past few years?

Stacy: I believe that would be very accurate to say. Since people value their pets so much, they are willing to spend a lot of money on them to make sure that they are well taken care of. This includes their physical health and well-being. As a result, they take their pets to the veterinarian often, both when they’re well for regular checkups and when they’re sick to help them feel better.

As we have discussed before on the podcast, more people adopted animals as pets during the pandemic and more people took their pets to the veterinarian during the pandemic, as well. That helped to drive demand for Veterinary products and services, and that in turn helped to drive the demand for more veterinarians and more Veterinary workers. I have been an Animal Health and Veterinary recruiter for 25 years, and I will say that the need for veterinarians has never been as great as it is right now.

Joel: The need for veterinarians is greater now than it has been at any point during the past 25 years?

Stacy: Yes, based on my experience and what I have seen, hiring veterinarians has never been tougher. And people’s attitudes toward their pets and the amount of money they are willing to spend on their pets is one of the reasons why this is the case. There simply are not enough veterinarians to keep up with demand.

Joel: But Stacy, what if there is a recession? What will happen then?

Stacy: Well, it will depend on a number of factors, including the severity of the recession. But I want to point out that pet owners are willing to sacrifice their own needs for the needs of their pets. The results of the Consumer Affairs survey bear that out. And that also happened during recessions in the past, including during the Great Recession.

Joel: What is that? Pet owners sacrificed their own needs for the needs of their pets?

Stacy: Exactly. And if happened during the Great Recession, it will happen again during the next recession. And as we wrap up today’s podcast episode, I have some results from another survey that will back this up.

Joel: Which survey is that?

Stacy: It was a survey earlier this year that was commissioned by Rowan and conducted by Pollfish. According to the survey, 82% of Americans say that it was “love at first sight” when they first met their dog. To put that in perspective, only 77% said it was “love at first sight” when they first met their significant other.

Joel: Okay, that surprises me a little.

Stacy: But that is not even the most surprising part of the survey results.

Joel: It is not? What is?

Stacy: According to the survey, one in four people would sacrifice themselves to save their dog.

Joel: What do you mean by sacrifice? You mean give their life?

Stacy: Yes, that’s right. They would give their life if it meant that their pet would be saved. So, if there is a recession, you can rest assured that there are pet owners that would make sure their pet had enough food, even if they didn’t. And you can also rest assured there are pet owners who would make sure their pet had the proper medical attention, even if they didn’t have the proper medical care.

Joel: So, pet owners are still sacrificing themselves for their pets, even if they’re not actually giving up their life for them?

Stacy: That’s right. And that is one of the biggest reasons why there is such a huge demand for Veterinary services and for Veterinary workers in the job market right now and why there will continue to be a huge demand in the future.

I mentioned the phrase “consumer mindset” earlier, and you can see why that mindset is so important in terms of discovering the underlying reasons for increasing demand for products and services in the Pet industry, Animal Health industry, and Veterinary profession. It’s not only how and why people think the way they think, but when it comes to pet owners, it’s also how and why they feel and the emotional attachments they have to their pets.

Joel: Stacy, thank you so much for joining us today and for all of this great information about the Pet industry trends that are driving the Animal Health industry and Veterinary profession.

Stacy:. It’s been my pleasure, and I look forward to our next episode of the Animal Health and Veterinary Employment Insider!